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    Sustainability to be the AV industry’s new normal

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    Filming ’Huonot naiset’ – a wedding comedy, now in Finnish cinemas. Photo: Maiju Pohjanheimo / Tekele Productions.

    How to make environmental values and responsibility an integral part of film and TV productions? In Finland, the AV industry is piloting the use of international albert environmental system. Film Tampere is strongly committed to work for the sustainability of the entire AV industry.

    Sustainability Manager Anne Puolanne from Audiovisual Producers Finland (APFI) compares the current situation with the one a decade ago. Today the audiovisual business in Finland really is striving towards sustainability. The latest IPCC reports leave no doubt why this is a necessity.

    – Many stakeholders find sustainability very interesting: production companies, content buyers, funders, etc. So far, though, there has been more interest expressed than actual steps taken towards sustainability. But the major buyers, like Netflix, are already demanding that environmental issues are addressed in practice, says Puolanne.

    According to Puolanne, one of the problems in Finland is the lack of measured data on the AV industry’s climate impact. Therefore the issue can not be discussed nor developed based on numerical data.This is about to change: APFI, Finland’s trade association for producers of audiovisual content, is currently creating a national sustainability strategy. All the key partners of the film and TV industries are involved. First APFI will concentrate on environmental sustainability.

    Why measured data is important?

    The use of albert will begin with a pilot phase started in January 2022, when the first five production companies joined in. The plan is to test and reflect the system between them and APFI, then create an information kit to help launch albert for the entire Finnish AV industry.

    – Measuring carbon footprints is very important. At first, it may also be challenging, as there is a need to get numeric data that has never been collected before, and also from subcontractors, says Puolanne.

    A single production’s carbon footprint varies a great deal depending on what’s being produced. International statistics collected by the albert system show that drama tends to produce a massive amount of emissions while news are at the other end of the scale. 

    For a production company, it is important to consider where to make their sustainability investments. The most significant potential reductions can often be found where the emissions are currently largest.

    – Comparison is easier when it is about a TV series with season-to-season recurring elements. When some part of the process is changed, there will be data on the impact quite soon, says Puolanne.

    The biggest factors in the AV industry’s carbon footprint are energy and transportation. Filming is the stage with heaviest emissions; pre-production is important because it is the stage where choices effecting the entire project’s carbon footprint are made.

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    The XYZ Masterclass on Sustainable Film Production was held at Tampere Film Festival 2022. Panelist: Tilly Ashton, Sustainability coordinator from Wales and Anne Puolanne, Sustainablity specialist and a media professional from Finland. Moderator: Aram Tertzakian, XYZ Films. Picture: Satu Meronen

    Sustainability in productions companies

    Tekele Productions, founded in 2017, is one of the companies piloting the albert system in Finland. Producer Julia Elomäki states that the entire AV industry needs to make significant changes in order to continue in a sustainable way.

    – There are lots of practical things that AV industry can do to change their operational culture. Piloting albert is huge, giving us tools to monitor emissions. I hope one day it will no longer be needed, because operational practices will have changed, says Elomäki.

    According to the Tekele policy, catering is always plant-based. Waste management and recycling are well taken care of in all Tekele’s operations, and circular economy principles are followed, especially in set and costume designs. Communication is important, for example signalling car rental companies that greener vehicles would be very welcome.

    – We also hope for discussions between production companies whenever someone gets new sustainability ideas. It is for the common good, Elomäki says.

    The City of Tampere aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. Film Tampere is strongly striving for sustainability of the entire AV industry. Film Tampere Specialist Fanny Heinonen says that both the region’s AV companies and their stakeholders need to recognise the sustainability actions.

    – This spring, active dialogue will be strengthened between AV companies and their stakeholders, such as the City of Tampere, Visit Tampere and other climate partners. We all are on a sort of learning path towards the more sustainable future, says Heinonen.

    Film crew at work
    Photo: Maiju Pohjanheimo / Tekele Productions.

    Audiovisual content – food for thought

    A lot of work remains to be done about the sustainability issues in the production of films, TV series, entertainment and other AV products. As for the viewers, content is what matters most.

    – AV content illustrates the world we are living in. So if there is a scene with two people having dinner and talking, it is not insignificant what they do with the leftovers. Is the food thrown away or saved for later use, says Puolanne.

    – Small decisions, maybe, but with potentially great impact. If something – a detail, a mindset – can be done in a greener way content-wise, I say ’do it!’ One’s own values go hand in hand with the content, says Elomäki.

    The XYZ Masterclass on Sustainable Film Production was held at Tampere Film Festival 10.3.2022.  View panel discussion recording in youtube:

    XYZ Masterclass streaming: Kuutiomedia

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